Emmylou’s “Wrecking Ball”

January 12th, 2013Posted by Nancy


This influences thing has gotten all out of order, but c’est la vie.

While walking in the unseasonable sun and warmth day (16 degrees celsius on Jan 12th. Lovely as it is, I think we all need to be afraid now), an Emmylou Harris song turned up on the IPod. It got me thinking about her incredible “Wrecking Ball” album and the number of artists to which that single work introduced me.

Of course, I was familiar, at least distantly, with Emmylou herself, though I’d never really paid much attention. I was much more familiar with producer Daniel Lanois, through his work with U2, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel and – even earlier – such Toronto New Wave mainstays as Martha and the Muffins and Nash the Slash. He was not exactly the first person I could imagine producing an album for someone I thought of a ‘country singer’. However, his brilliant solo album “For the Beauty of Wynona” showed that he had deep love of dark folk music, the kind of lonely songs that Emmylou’s voice suited perfectly.

There’s an incredible line-up of songwriters on “Wrecking Ball”: Neil Young, Steve Earle, Anna McGarrigle, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Rodney Crowell, and Emmylou and Daniel themselves. Some I’d already known (Young, Earle, Dylan), some I now saw in a new light (Hendrix), and some were a new revelation. I quickly picked up work by Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams and their songs went into high rotation on my CD player (yes, children, there was music in a time before IPods).

Music has always played an important part in my writing and most of the books had an unofficial soundtrack. For The Night Inside, it was Shriekback, whose songs provided the section titles. For A Terrible Beauty, it was Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by Sarah Mclachlan. For Cold Hillside (my work in progress), it’s a series of playlists which include songs by Emmylou, Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams.

The moody wash of the music, the depth of Emmylou’s voice, the songs that move from dark portraits of modern life to folk songs that reflect old traditions to love songs both sorrowful and hopeful, make this one album that would definitely make it onto the proverbial desert island with me.

And seriously, what writer of dark fiction wouldn’t get a shiver up their spine at the line:
“So I ran with the moon and I ran with the night
And the three of us were a terrible sight”

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1 response

  • 1 Jay · Mar 22, 2013 at 5:40 am

    One of Emmylou’s most courageous and best! And yes, the musical talent on the record are all, all brilliant in their own right.


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